Flashback To Woodstock

Forty years ago a few rich kids hatched a nutty idea that became an event that rocked the nation, then morphed into a movement whose legacy lives on. This summer the young Museum at Bethel Woods in rural New York commemorates the anniversary of that idea, the zeitgeist that spawned it, and the phenomena that flowed from it—all of it evoked in one word: Woodstock. Read more »

"Little Short Of Madness"

A bold dream to connect the Hudson to the Great Lakes by canal created a transportation revolution

As mayor of New York City and later as governor of New York State, De Witt Clinton crusaded so zealously for a canal connecting Albany to Buffalo that the project became known as “Clinton’s Ditch.” It was a dream of pharaonic proportions—a 363-mile-long artificial waterway that most people considered impossible.

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The World’s Fair

It was a disaster from the beginning

 

It had no fewer than three official themes, the remarkably clunky “Man’s Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe,” the less than original “Peace Through Understanding,” and the more or less meaningless “A Millennium of Progress.” Its symbol was the Unisphere, which still can be seen at Flushing Meadows Park, where the fair was held. It wasn’t even an official world’s fair, and most major countries boycotted it. It was a financial disaster.

One of the myriad souvenirs generated by the festival.
 
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America On The Hudson

The town that has seen it all

All those thousands of leagues outward bound from Amsterdam, and now they reached land, land bisected by a vast channel doubtless connecting Atlantic to Pacific and fabled China. The captain had looked for that route even through Arctic ice floes. Now he and his less-than-two-dozen-man crew thought they saw it. Logic indicated that they were in India, so the dark-skinned people gaping from shore were obviously … Indians. The sailors headed north to chart the future spice-trade passage.

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Deli

The woman whose great-grandfather introduced pastrami to the New World explores an American institution that is as hard to define as it is easy to recognize

 

The great immigration of the late-nineteenth century brought unheard-of things to America: Tin Pan Alley, Bakelite, the first air-conditioned hat. And thanks to Sussman Volk, pastrami. In 1887, a not-great year for Jews in Vilna, my great-grandfather packed up his wife and seven children and headed for New York. He had nine fingers, having shot one off to avoid the Russian draft.

 
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The Erie Rising

All along its 360-mile route, towns to which the canal gave birth are looking to its powerful ghost for economic revival.

Armed with a faded picture and a dream, we set out from the supermarket parking lot. Our quest: one of the last visible remnants of the old Erie Canal. We check our equipment, hike through the wilderness of SUVs and shopping carts, and toil up a slope. At the summit, a full minute later, we scout ahead. Nothing but trees. We spot some natives. Following their directions, we negotiate our way through a trackless wasteland. And there it is: the Erie Canal, covered with brush and trees and chest-high ferns.

 
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The Carpetbaggers

As Hillary Clinton campaigns for a New York Senate seat, she’d do well to study the career of another effective outsider

New Yorkers knew they were in for a long, hot summer this year when Hillary Rodham Clinton made an early political foray into their state and was greeted by demonstrators whom the state GOP had urged to dress up as blackflies. One of Mrs. Clinton’s aides had made the mistake of remarking that the First Couple would not be vacationing in the Adirondacks because of the flies.Read more »

They Spoke With The Dead

A century and a half ago two young girls started hearing noises they said came from beyond the grave—and embarked on a lifetime career that began a national obsession with spiritualism that has lasted to this day

“I looked down at my foot,” Joseph Merrill said, “and saw a white substance the size of a golf ball. As I watched, that golf ball expanded and took features: arms and a head. It was a woman. She passed through me and through my friend Harry. She turned and put her arm around Harry’s shoulder and kissed him on the forehead. Then she passed through the wall.” Read more »

Chinatown

A walk with my great-grandfather through the last foreign country in New York City

 
 
 
 

Mott Street is like the spine of a dragon. Its head lies on Canal, at the pagoda-roofed headquarters of a secretive tong society; its back curves down beyond Bayard, past restaurants and trinket salesmen; its forked tail whips through Chatham Square and loops back around the Bowery to reach toward Mott again as two tiny lanes called Pell and Doyers.

 
 
 
 
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